Peter Clines has published short fiction and articles on the film and television industries and is author of the new novel "The Fold"(Crown Publishing, 2015). Clines is author of the "Ex-Heroes" series and the thriller "14" (Permuted Press, 2012) and worked for many years in the film industry on such films and shows as "Psycho Beach Party," "Beastmaster III," and "Veronica Mars." He contributed this article to Space.com's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.
Reprinted from "The Fold" Copyright © 2015 by Peter Clines. Published by Crown Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
The walls of Captain Turner's Steak and Lobster Hut were decorated with plastic lobsters, dusty buoys, old traps and lengths of rope that had grown brittle with age. Each table was draped with a red and white checkered tablecloth held in place by a collection of condiments and a large candle in a red jar. The placemats had step-by-step instructions for how to eat a lobster.
The hostess greeted Mike by name and gave him a genuine smile. There were only a handful of other people in the restaurant, but Reggie insisted they sit away from the bar and against the wall. They'd given their drink orders to a young waitress who said hello to "Mr. Erikson" as she offered Reggie a menu. She brought their drinks and answered Reggie's questions about the surf and turf special clipped into the menu. She smiled at Mike again before walking away. "Old student?" asked Reggie.
"I think so, yep."
The bald man bit back a laugh. "You think so?"
Mike sipped his rum and Coke. "So, come on," he said. "What's this all about?"
Reggie set his own drink down. "Take the battery out of your phone."
Mike looked around the restaurant. "Seriously?"
"Protocol. You expecting an important call?"
"So don't be a pain in the ass. Take the battery out and we can talk."
Mike popped his smartphone out of its case and pried off the battery cover. "What about yours?"
"Mine's better. It's got six different security systems."
"I bet I could get into it," said Mike. He stacked his disassembled phone in the middle of the table.
"I bet you could," Reggie said. "That's why I'm here. I've got a job offer for you."
"Yes. How many is this now?"
Mike picked up his glass. "Thirteen since you joined DARPA, nineteen total since we've known each other."
"Lucky thirteen, then."
"I think it's cool that you keep flying up here so I can reject you in person. Is it another cryptography thing?"
"No." They tapped glasses.
"Robotics? You've got four or five robotics things going on, right?"
"You're sure eager to know what you're turning down." He glanced around. "Do you think we can get some rolls or something until the food arrives?"
"They generally have a bread basket. So is it robotics?"
Reggie shook his head as the waitress appeared with the promised basket of bread and a small bowl of butter balls. He smiled, but kept his mouth shut until she left. He pulled out an end piece and tore off the crust with his teeth.
"You're taking the cloak-and-dagger stuff seriously this time."
"This time it matters." He spread some butter on his second slice of bread. "Here's the deal. You come work for the agency this summer as a freelancer. Three months. I'll start you as a special consultant, but we can bump it up, depending on what happens. Minimum, you'll take home about forty thousand after taxes."
"Are you drafting me?"
"Pretty much, yes, if you think you're up for it."
Mike laughed and tore off a piece of bread.
"I'm serious," Reggie said. "This is the big one. I need you on this."
"That's what you always say."
"This time's different."
"Because this time you're going to say yes."
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